Writing fiction for children has a number of rules and tricks, the very basics of which are creating believable characters and adding conflict. But, there are many other elements that go into creating an effective and engaging story. Below are four simple tips to help you navigate the children’s writing waters.
1. Show the way to success
While description and a bit of telling have their place, today’s publishers want you to show the story. The technique for ‘showing’ rather than ‘telling’ is to use your character’s five senses, along with dialogue.
The days of, “See Dick and Jane walk down the lane,” are far gone.
Showing allows the reader to connect with the protagonist. The reader is able to feel the protagonist’s pain, joy, fear, or excitement. This creates a connection and prompts the reader to continue reading.
If you’re stuck, and can’t seem to be able to ‘show’ a particular scene, try acting it out. You can also draw on your own experiences, TV, or the movies. Study scenes that convey the ‘showing’ you need to depict.
2. Create synergy
Joining the story together in a seamless fashion is probably the trickiest part of writing fiction. The characters, conflict, plot, theme, setting and other details all need to blend together to create something grander than their individual parts; like the ingredients of a cake. This is called synergy.
It doesn’t matter if your story is plot driven or character driven, all the elements need to weave together smoothly to create the desired affect you are going for: humor, mystery, action, fantasy, or other.
If you have an action packed plot driven story, but it lacks believable and sympathetic characters, you’re story will be lacking. The same holds true if you have a believable and sympathetic character, but the story lacks movement, it will usually also fall short.
All this must be done in an engaging manner, along with easy to understand content.
3. Keep it lean
According to multi-published children’s writer Margot Finke, today’s children’s publishing world is looking for tight writing. Choose your words for their ability to convey strong and distinct actions, create imagery, and move the story forward.
The publishing costs for picture books over 32 pages is beyond what most publishers are willing to spend, so word counts should be well under 1000, and be sure to make each word count. Keep in mind that the illustrations will add another layer to the story and fill in the blanks.
When writing fiction for young children, the younger the children, the leaner the writing. This means if you’re writing for toddlers or preschoolers, you should limit your word count to a range of 100 to 250 words.
4. Be part of a critique group
This is a must for all writers, but especially for children’s writers. There are so many additional tricks of the trade that you need to be aware of when writing for children, you’ll need the extra sets of eyes.
Your critique partners will no doubt be able to see what you missed. This is because you are too close to your own work. They will also be helpful in providing suggestions and guidance. Just be sure your critique group has experienced, as well as new writers.
Belonging to a ‘writing fiction for children’ critique group will also help you hone your craft.
Use these four tips to help create a ‘synergized’ story.
What strategies do you use to take your story up a notch?
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